We (by which I mean the folks actually capable of making it run – Hal Roberts, David Larochelle, Zoe Fraade-Blanar) have been revamping the Media Cloud tool this past year, trying to make it more powerful for media watchers to understand what stories have been receiving mainstream and citizen media attention, and how to characterize that coverage. We’re in a closed beta test of the new tool until May, but will be rolling it out to the general public before all the snow is melted in my native Pittsfield.
The most obvious way Media Cloud helps us understand what’s being covered is via word clouds, visualizations of what terms appear most frequently in news stories or blog posts in a set of media sources. The cloud above is the words that appeared most often in a set of 25 mainstream media sources in a week that ended on March 21st. Our servers subscribe to all the RSS feeds offered on the websites of those 25 MSM sources, and we download the entire text of the stories posted on those sites several times a day. So our word clouds visualize the words most common in the full text of all those stories, minus common words we remove using a stoplist we’ve developed. This is a pretty international word cloud – Japan, Libya, Qaddafi are some of the largest words visible, and prominent terms include Fukushima, a term we’ve probably never seen in a word cloud this broad until the nuclear crisis story broke.